Advanced

The epigenesis of meaning in human beings, and possibly in robots

Zlatev, Jordan LU (2001) In Minds and Machines 11(2). p.155-195
Abstract
This article addresses a classical question: Can a machine use language meaningfully and if so, how can this be achieved? The first part of the paper is mainly philosophical. Since meaning implies intentionality on the part of the language user, artificial systems which obviously lack intentionality will be `meaningless' (pace e.g. Dennett). There is, however, no good reason to assume that intentionality is an exclusively biological property (pace e.g. Searle) and thus a robot with bodily structures, interaction patterns and development similar to those of human beings would constitute a system possibly capable of meaning – a conjecture supported through a Wittgenstein-inspired thought experiment. The second part of the paper focuses on... (More)
This article addresses a classical question: Can a machine use language meaningfully and if so, how can this be achieved? The first part of the paper is mainly philosophical. Since meaning implies intentionality on the part of the language user, artificial systems which obviously lack intentionality will be `meaningless' (pace e.g. Dennett). There is, however, no good reason to assume that intentionality is an exclusively biological property (pace e.g. Searle) and thus a robot with bodily structures, interaction patterns and development similar to those of human beings would constitute a system possibly capable of meaning – a conjecture supported through a Wittgenstein-inspired thought experiment. The second part of the paper focuses on the empirical and constructive questions. Departing from the principle of epigenesis stating that during every state of development new structure arises on the basis of existing structure plus various sorts of interaction, a model of human cognitive and linguistic development is proposed according to which physical, social and linguistic interactions between the individual and the environment have their respective peaks in three consecutive stages of development: episodic, mimetic and symbolic. The transitions between these stages are qualitative, and bear a similarity to the stages in phylogenesis proposed by Donald (1991) and Deacon (1997). Following the principle of epigenetic development, robotogenesis could possibly recapitulate ontogenesis, leading to the emergence of intentionality, consciousness and meaning. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Minds and Machines
volume
11
issue
2
pages
155 - 195
external identifiers
  • scopus:0035338317
DOI
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
edc08e24-d6e0-477d-a7f3-afa681253964
date added to LUP
2018-01-29 23:30:46
date last changed
2018-05-29 10:49:23
@article{edc08e24-d6e0-477d-a7f3-afa681253964,
  abstract     = {This article addresses a classical question: Can a machine use language meaningfully and if so, how can this be achieved? The first part of the paper is mainly philosophical. Since meaning implies intentionality on the part of the language user, artificial systems which obviously lack intentionality will be `meaningless' (pace e.g. Dennett). There is, however, no good reason to assume that intentionality is an exclusively biological property (pace e.g. Searle) and thus a robot with bodily structures, interaction patterns and development similar to those of human beings would constitute a system possibly capable of meaning – a conjecture supported through a Wittgenstein-inspired thought experiment. The second part of the paper focuses on the empirical and constructive questions. Departing from the principle of epigenesis stating that during every state of development new structure arises on the basis of existing structure plus various sorts of interaction, a model of human cognitive and linguistic development is proposed according to which physical, social and linguistic interactions between the individual and the environment have their respective peaks in three consecutive stages of development: episodic, mimetic and symbolic. The transitions between these stages are qualitative, and bear a similarity to the stages in phylogenesis proposed by Donald (1991) and Deacon (1997). Following the principle of epigenetic development, robotogenesis could possibly recapitulate ontogenesis, leading to the emergence of intentionality, consciousness and meaning.},
  author       = {Zlatev, Jordan},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {155--195},
  series       = {Minds and Machines},
  title        = {The epigenesis of meaning in human beings, and possibly in robots},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/},
  volume       = {11},
  year         = {2001},
}